Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Comfortable Pumps: The Final Frontier

And now, I present to you, one of the most entertaining emails I've ever received:

Winona! I am on a quest!

*Dramatic shot of the earth, ancient Mesopotamia*

For thousands of years, all humans have searched and scoured the globe...there is one thing they all want...

The fountain of youth?


A pair of comfortable pumps for the office.

Archaeologist talking:

"Ever since the beginning of history, we have seen evidence of such a things existence. For, example, in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, we have seen pictures of what evidently seems to be a platform heel, with this light symbol around it...what was called in Egypt, The Great Heel of Thoth. It was sacredly worshiped."

Okay, Winona, I think you get the point. I'm a geeky girl and I've never really had a need for heels..before.. but now I've got a new job in a..*gasp* office environment. Is there such a thing as the coveted, treasured comfortable heels so that my quest to the water cooler isn't painful?

If you help me, I'll give you Patrick Stewart. (yes, he's been locked in my basement for about 10 years)

Trekkie girl

Dear Trekkie,

I have to admit that I would be more enthused to answer your query if your hostage trade involved Commander Riker (I could never resist his steely gaze and immaculately groomed deep space goatee), but whatever.

What ten-year-old girl could resist?

Back to the task at hand (or....foot?). Here are some things to look for in your quest for a comfortable high heel:
  • Thick heel (very trendy right now, so there are tons of cute options in stores)
  • Padded footbed (or "mushy insides" if you only speak Kindergarten Teacher)
  • Slightly flexible materials
  • The decrepit shack of a voodoo witch doctor with a sign hanging out front that says "Specializing in comfortable heels"
Way back when, I sang the praises of NeoNaturalizer, the shoe brand that I would totally be my best friend if it were a human. See, NeoNaturalizer is like the chubby kid in your second grade class who wore glasses and hand-me-down Power Rangers t-shirts--they grew up with something to prove, so now they're fun and funny and generous. In contrast, if a Jimmy Choo shoe were a human, he would have starred in a Welches Grape Juice commercial in second grade and enjoyed a life of steady good looks and popularity. He wouldn't have grown up to be super interesting because he never had to be and if you said "Hey Jimmy, you're hurting my feet," he'd probably say something smug like, "Yeah, but I look damn good," and you would just put up with the pain because he's right.

What I'm trying to say is: Naturalizer now makes shoes that are comfy and cute. Behold:

Top: "Fentress," $35 on sale; above: "Mager" (What's up with these names?), $79,

Totally sassy and cute, right? Now, usually these heels would be way too high and skinny to maintain any semblance of comfort, but NeoNaturalizer is a special case. I hear they keep a voodoo witch doctor on staff.

Speaking of special cases, Aerosoles could also join NeoNaturalizer and me in our clique of former chubby kids (how's this metaphor doing? Hanging on?). Their website is chock full of comfy/cute finds like these:

I love the little details of this style--from the button to the textured sole to the unique colors, they' should I put this?...mega badass.
Aerosoles "Cover Charge" Mary Jane, $63 (sale lasts til August 18th),

Cole Haan's line of classy pumps with magical Nike Air insoles are also an option, although they're pretty spendy and may have an unsettling side effect:

Top: Cole Haan "Fiona" Air High Pump, $215; Above: Cole Haan "Jena" Air High Pump, $279, both from

And here's my last, but certainly not least, example:

Thick heel and padded footbed + chic patent leather and rounded toe = THE GLEAMING MESSIAH OF COMFORTABLE SHOES. Seriously, I'm not even being dramatic (I never am). Could these shoes get any cuter? Pair 'em with any number of hosiery options, a flippy skirt and a blazer and you could look fabulous at work and seduce Commander Riker. Hott.
Franco Sarto "Nap" Pump, $78.95,

So what about you, fabulous, well-dressed reader? You were so immensely helpful with this query that I thought I'd ask again: What kind of shoes do you wear to the office? Do you have a favorite brand for comfy high heels? Any voodoo witch doctors in the audience tonight?


Annie said...

LOL, for sure, Riker is the hottest. haha

Hannah said...

ooh the new Naturalizers are amazing, and always on sale at Macys. Also, may I recommend a wedge? Basic black ones look almost as professional as pumps and are way comfortable.

jozette said...

I actually bought a pair of the Cole Haan / Nike Air heels for a wedding I'm going to in Sept. We'll see how they fare, but wearing them around the house? So comfy. And they have a 3 3/4 inch heel. You'd never know it. (PS - I got them on sale).

Also, if you are not a heel girl, I find wedges to be comfy.

Also, I find Riker to be amazing. I love me some Number 1.

Princess Poochie said...

If no one else claims him, I'll take Picard, thank you.

I've found the comfy factor more directly related to the last that the company/designer uses. There are just some brands that pretty much always fit you well and that's probably because the last, or form, they use to create the shoe is close to your foot. It pays to search those out. Cheaper or brands with lasts that don't align with you will be much less comfy no matter the height or heel shape.

For me I know that almost always a 5 in Nine West or Manolo Blahnik will fit and be so comfortable I can wear them all day. I have other shoes that are much less high that I can only wear for a briefer time compared to walking all over NY in a pair of Manolo heels. Once you find that brand you are halfway home.

Aerosoles do a pretty good job too. I've had a pair that I consider my "go to" work heels - black patent, about 3", big silver pilgrim-y buckle - that I've had for a good 7 years.

Try on lots. If you have carpet, buy em, take em home and wear them around the house for a day or so. But, as you know, if they hurt in any way right off the bat, don't bother with them.


Lauren said...

Do any of these shoes come in gold? I need cute, comfortable gold shoes for a wedding and I'm having a hard time finding good ones that don't look like they are made for strippers! Any suggestions on that?


Kate said...

I sympathize with Lauren on trying to find an appropriate metallic shoe. This is never easy if you are looking for something specific.

I once needed a silver heeled sandal (with a preference for more of a gunmetal shade) for a dress I wanted to wear to an event. I wasn't picky about the style as long as it was a good shoe that went well with the dress (seriously - if there were razor blades in the footbed - I would still try them on). So of course, there wasn't anything available. Five years later I find great gunmetal heeled sandals ALL the time.

Good luck Lauren I'll let you know if I see anything.

Jessi said...

I hope no one's going to disagree with me here, but I have a pair of Mossimo peep toes from.... TARGET... that are the world's most comfortable heels.


They come in a bunch of colors and I can wear those babies alllllllll dayyyyyyy. I might not be the best judge for comfy shoes because I will buy shoes for looks over comfort 10 out of 10 times, but these TARGET shoes pleasantly surprised me.
Get ON that ish!

Sal said...

I bought the Tsubo Acrea in three colors. I love it that much. For me, it's the perfect heel: Comfy, walkable, stylish, classic-but-fun. A little spendy at $135, but considerably less than the Cole Haans. Take a peek, Trekkie Girl! Zappos carries it in 7 colors.

KD said...

I have a pair of Cole Haan/Nike flats that I love - they fit comfortably. You could always try flats. But don't get super-cheap ones (mine were $80 at Nordstrom's) because they will be super duper uncomfortable. Ones with a teeeeensy wedge (3/4 inch, say) are much better.

backstitch said...

Leather. I have one pair of comfortable heels and the difference (for me) is that they are made of leather. Sorry vegans. And cows.

Kristina said...

i too have the darby pumps from target, and they ARE the most comfortable shoes in the world. and cute. and red patent. i also have them in basic black leather (which mostly, i agree, makes a huge difference in comfort; leather stretches with your foot, synthetic doesn't). they were cheap, and awesome.

i would say the easy route is to go lower and chunkier with the heel. for the advanced class, you want a heel that is a straighter line from your legs to the ground. it's hard to explain, but even if a heel is skinny, if it's centered right, it will be comfortable. i have a pair of 3.5" heels that are more comfortable than a pair with 2" heels. a padded footbed is a great idea, and a shaped arch can also help. the best advice is to try try try as many pairs as you can, from as many places as you can (try high end shoes and low end never know what your feet will like).

cate said...

agree with most above, but also try on half sizes above and below your "usual" size. i've had a lot of luck with getting shoes that fit comfortably by trying on the over-under, and sometimes even a full size up or down if either the half up or half down fits better. i also employ something that i call a "trot," but looks suspiciouslly like a little girl playing imaginary pony. i try to land hard on my feet and see if i feel supported. you'll look ridiculous, but you'll be happy when you get a pair of comfy shoes.

also, as gross as it may be, if you are not going to wear stockings with the shoes then do not try them on with the footie things. i don't wear stockings,ever, so i always bring a bottle of purell with me when i try on shoes.

last, remember that you can always add inserts. i recommend having a pair (i use dr. scholls gels, but there were other recommendations on the coffee shop post that nona linked to here) with you when you go shoe shopping so you can test the fit then and there.

Laura V said...

like princess poochie, I find that finding a brand with a last that works for your foot is very important! There are some comfort brands that I just cannot, CANNOT wear -- Easy Spirit, for example, totally FAILS on my feet, but is awesomesaucehotpants for some of my friends.

The comfy heels I wear to work/with suits are inexpensive as hell: the LifeStride "Sofia". Cute, low-heeled, comfy enough (on my feet, which are wide at the toe and narrow at the heel) to walk a few miles in, no problemo.

The comfy heels I wear to work/with jeans/for a more funky effect are more expensive -- they're made by Frye Boots. I have 2 pairs of heeled boots (the higher of the heels is, iirc, 2"), a pair of mules (the heels on these are, I think, about 3"), a pair of low-heeled peep toes, and a pair of flats by Frye; they're all hellaciously comfy for me and I can go all day in them and walk to lunch or my doctor's office from work and not wreck my feet. They ARE pricy, but they last FOREVER with a little care and resoling. (Whereas the LifeStrides, I just buy new ones when they wear out.)

Fritinancy said...

Sal, were we separated at birth? I also own the Tsubo Acrea in three colors. Love, love, love that shoe. I can't wear open pumps, alas (because of my absurdly high insteps I walk right out of them), so the diagonal strap on the Acrea works just dandy. And comfortable? Oh yes. P.S. Shop around. I've seen last year's red Acrea on, I think--for as little as $40. Runs true to size.

Aerosoles: meh. The leather is really, really cheap. It peels, flakes, loses dye, in general falls to pieces in a few months. I'm not interested in disposable shoes.

As for the Cole Haan pumps, the Nike Air Technology is actually different from the NAT in the sandals you tried on, DL. For one thing, it's silent.

Final tip: if you can afford them, Taryn Rose pumps are divine. They have a Poron "memory" insole that never loses its cushioning. Again, look for markdowns.

TheSundayBest said...

When I look at pictures of Bon Jovi with their cuban heels I think, thank god for fashion trends that die die die.

DeeDee said...

Wow. Am I the only one who thinks most of these shoes are a lady? The Aerosoles are not so bad but I can see the nude-stockinged, swollen, octegenarian feet crammed into most of these.

Dr. Scholl's makes insoles specifically for heels with cushioning concentrated at the ball of your foot that are pretty good.

Sara Darling said...

I'm a big fan of Fluevogs, though they are pricey. It's definitely worth trying on something in the "shoe family" to make sure it's comfy. I've found the Hi Choice and Operetta shoe family high heels to be all-day comfortable, and the Mini family to be soul-murderingly uncomfortable.

I've had good luck with Born shoes, particularly their lower heels.

I've also found that Kenneth Cole Reaction does a surprisingly comfy heel -- some of the styles have the heel sort of pushed forward under the foot. Sort of how, if you looked at it from the side, the heel would be closer to the ball of the foot than your average high heel, which for me makes a huge difference in comfort and balance.

lisa said...

Some really cute options in there! I find that it's the height of the heel that kills me, not the brand. I can comfortably wear heels 2.5" or below. For everyday, I like a heel around 1", 1.5" or 2". For really high heels, having a platform sole that balances out some of the extra height definitely helps. I definitely agree with the wedge recommendations above.

Heather said...

I agree that it is hard to find stylish and comfortable shoes! I actually found such a cute pair by a designer that is participating in fashion week san diego. If anyone is interested, check out the shoes and info about the event where you can see the entire line!

micing said...

I always had a crush on Riker whenever my family watched Star Trek. Seriously, I thought he was the bees knees when I was a kid. With a couple decades under my belt, I now wonder what I was thinking. Sure, his space beard is quite groomed but...

Well, after an extensive Star Trek discussion with a roommate, we decided to call the phenomenon of intense crushing of a sorta decent looking man The Riker Effect where the best looking man in the cast inevitably becomes the object of affection. He may not be Mr. Universe but he suffices when surrounded by teeth monsters or tentacle aliens.

Currently I wear converse to work because I do computer support.

queenzelda said...

long time reader etc.. but i had to pipe up to say nah uhh Commander Riker. Its ALL about Dr Mckoy. *hearts*

Juliet said...

You're fun :D, just found your blog, it seems great.

juliet xxx

kiki said...

I have to say, none of those examples excite me. But wedges are a good choice. When you don't have to totter and balance, the pain stays away longer.

Also, I got a pair of mary-janes from payless that have two straps and a pretty sturdy heel, so something that straps the shoe to your foot may be a good idea. Like heel training wheels.

Or you could wear your Chucks with skirts and dresses. Just be brazenly hobo and young. That's what I do.

jess said...

I think nine west makes a pretty good shoe. Look around in thrift shops for them. I thrifted the best pair of bright blue nine west shoes and they are so comfortable

enc said...

I wear Asics to the "office." I'm no help at all.

eileen said...

I don't wear heels ever, since I'm already 5 foot 11 and who needs an extra gap when I'm already highwatered up both pant legs AND sleeves? I do love me some Franco Sarto for good flats, though.

Robo said...

There's a brand called Sofft (with umlat over the "O"), which has quite cute pumps with uber-gushy soles. Their shoes used to be the usual frump-a-dump comfortable shoes, but they've stepped up (hehe) their game. They're definitely available at Nordstrom, and I'm sure Sofft is also on Zappos. The brand isn't cheap, but for cute + comfort, I'd shell out the bucks.

Mariah W said...

Lots of spendy comfort shoes are available for nearly nothing (unless you're like me and will wear nothing but mephistos, and even then, they carry them at %50 off or more) at sierra trading company. many of them are fug, but many of them are not. they carry, e.g., taryn rose, mentioned above.

i always go through the mephistos (comfort shoe/heel holy grail in my opinion), echos (have gotten cuter lately, and frye boots. for cold weather options, there are not boots but la canadienne.

but if you want really really cute heels and not really feeling that jimmy choo vibe, really?

oh camper, how i love you. the heels are comfy (spool heel!) but the least interesting option of the bunch (except occasionally). the twins are the cutest.

Joanna Goddard said...

you are my hero! thank you for this post! i'm always that girls wobbling around and wincing.

berryberr said...

Lovely blog! Will check back often!

Chocoholic said...

I have a super cute pair of peep toe black heels by Aerosoles that are really comfortable. Best thing is, I got them at Marshall's for about $30!

Katie Rosemary said...

Shoe boots! Laced-up shoes means they cannay fall off and cause your heels grief-filled blisters.
I don't go to the office but if I did I'd wear stupidly uncomfortable shoes and use my wheely-chair to glide from desk to copier. Sorted.

Anthea said...

This is really helpful. I also sent my sister this post who is a star trek fan and loooooved it ;) It just seems so hard to find shoes that are good quality, at a reasonable price and are cute at the same time! Great post !!

Karen said...

OOH! Speaking of Star Trek I can't wait for the new movie... Maybe I can get those Cole Haan Fionas and wear 'em to the premiere. :)

Pamcasso said...

Me heart naturalizers. Even the old granny kind:) Good advice, as always!

landis smithers said...

1) i get it
2) i'm late to the game here
3) round toed pumps are the fifth sign the devil is winning.

tell your friend that if you're not willing to suffer from fashion, this is probably what you deserve.

Ingrid said...

Just wanted to let you know that I bought the Naturalizer black leather heels on your recommendation, and they just arrived the other day. I wore them to work today, and I have to say "not bad, not bad" :-)

WDILT said...

To Lauren, re: gold shoes:

I wore these cynthia rowley's to my own wedding, and other events thereafter. they are gold, classy and comfortable.

Pinky said...

love the red ones

ed said...


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